At the beginning of this month The Campaign to End Child Poverty published a startling report on the levels of child poverty throughout the UK. Most shocking for us is that the figures for Glasgow City indicate that 35% of children in Glasgow live in poverty, the highest in Scotland. As with all UK cities some areas have seen more disastrous figures than others, for Glasgow that’s in Springburn, with an estimate of 52% children living under the poverty line.
As cited in the report “the poverty line means that, after housing costs, all the household bills and family’s spending needs will need to be met by around £12 or less per family member per day”. The amount of children in Britain currently living below these means is estimated at 3.5 million, a vast reduction on the figures seen in the late 90s. Between 1998 and 2010 the number of children living in poverty was reduced by roughly 900,000, but there are genuine fears that the current government’s policies will only lead to the numbers reaching previous highs again by 2020.
Glasgow is amongst the 20 worst local authorities in terms of child poverty, and the worst in Scotland, even it’s lowest figures are only just below any found in Edinburgh and are towering above Aberdeen. Unsurprisingly the top local authorities are predominantly found in the South East, with Hertfordshire at only 5%. What the campaign serves to highlight though is that child poverty ought not to be measured in such simple terms, or that children living in poverty are always aware of it. The report accurately depicts what many children in poverty experience, a harder home-life due to the sacrifices made by parents in order to keep their children from any misconceived shame or bullying in school.
Speaking to The Glaswegian, a spokesperson for the Glasgow Community Council said that “The issue of child poverty in Glasgow is well recognised by the council and its community planning partners”. The initiatives in place focus on education as a means to improving future prospects, but there ought also to be a focus on improving the options available to families, some argue. Also this week the government at Westminster presented plans to cut child benefit to the 1.5 million highest earning families in Britain who receive it, which will save nearly £2.4 billion a year. Fears abound that the cut off point of £44,000 annual income will be too restrictive on one parent income families. So on the face of it these cuts look set to only affect those who could afford it, but in reality it might simply push more families in to debt.
What can be done then? Last year the SNP initiated a national child poverty strategy to give more specific financial aid to those families suffering most, by freezing council tax and offering schemes to help with housing costs. This is clearly not working as efficiently or as wide spread as it could, and rather than a blanket rule for the whole country, the problems of child poverty might more effectively be combated on a local level, with local authorities working to improve not only the fiscal problems but also social problems. What is surprising about the figures for Glasgow poverty is that even in those areas which are typically considered affluent also show high level of child poverty, Hillhead currently stands at 28% and the City Centre at 38%. So where the emphasis on education taken by the council is a good thing, a re-think of social ideas and opportunities ought also be taken to fully combat all levels of poverty throughout Glasgow.